Did you know that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month? In 2022, it is estimated that 54,000 U.S adults will be diagnosed with oral cancer. That number can be scary, especially if you are not familiar with the signs of this disease.
In today’s blog post, we want to share a general overview of oral cancer, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, and prevention tips.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is defined as any cancer on the lip, tongue, cheeks of the mouth, mouth floor, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. Although anyone can develop this disease, people at the most risk include males as well as those with a history of tobacco or alcohol use, increased sun exposure, older age, HPV, or a history of neck or head cancer.
- A mouth sore that does not heal
- Bleeding in your mouth
- A lump in your neck
- Pain with swallowing
- White or red patches in your mouth
- Numbness in your tongue
- Ear pain
Diagnosis and Treatment
Early diagnosis is key, as it can spread quickly. If you have one or more of the symptoms listed above that persists for longer than two weeks, it is recommended that you visit your dentist for an oral examination. The exam is quick and painless. Your dentist or dental hygienist will check your lips, face, neck, and mouth for signs of this condition.
After diagnosis, your dentist may refer you to a specialist to receive proper treatment. When detected early, oral cancer is usually treated through surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments.
Oral Cancer Prevention Tips
Although anyone can get oral cancer, there are still things you can do to significantly decrease your chances of developing it. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Avoid tobacco: The more you’ve used tobacco (smoke or smokeless), the higher your risk for this disease. It is best to avoid tobacco altogether.
- Drink alcohol in moderation: According to the National Institutes of Health, having more than three and a half alcoholic drinks per night multiplies your risk of oral cancer by two to three times.
- Protect your lips: If you often find yourself with dry or blistered lips after a long day in the sun, you may want to reach for a lip balm with sunscreen. Just as it’s important to use sun protection on the skin, applying it to your lips can really help decrease your odds of developing this disease.
- Regular dentist visits: Dentists are often the first to notice alarming symptoms and can usually catch it in the early stages. Unfortunately, a majority of patients with oral cancer don’t get diagnosed until it is too late for proper treatment. So don’t hesitate! A quick dental check-up may just save your life
If you are due for your biannual exam, give us a call at 407.834.0330.
Check out our Dental Blog to learn more about topics like restorative dentistry, wisdom teeth, and teeth whitening.